Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Tale of Two Suppers

1. A rubbish meal

We’re on an economy drive, trying to use everything in the freezer. It’s one of Husband’s peccadilloes. He says we use the freezer as some sort of food purgatory until it’s too old and we throw it all away. And he has a point.

I go along with it for a quiet life (I go along with a lot of things for a quiet life), and now we’re down to the last few chicken breasts. Husband is getting ready to go to an evening work thing while I decide how to cook the defrosted chicken.

There are some vegetables kicking around but not much else so I decide to fry the chicken in red onions and peppers, then I lob in some tinned olives along with some stock and a bit of fresh thyme and some lemon and garlic and seasoning and it’s all coming together rather nicely. At the last minute I add a bit of leftover cream cheese I found lurking at the back of the fridge and have a taste. It’s bloody marvellous. I decide we’ll have it with pasta. I’m feeling pleased. Husband will love this when he get back from the do.

But as I’m filling a large pan with water I hear a strange popping/groaning noise coming from the hob. I ignore it (big mistake) and as I’m carrying the pan over there’s a very loud bang and the glass lid on top of my wonderful chicken concoction shatters into a million tiny pieces. I freeze, staring at my lovely dinner. The lid is still in one piece but now there's a fragile crazy paving barrier between us and the food.

Eldest and Middle One arrive. Eldest pulls gently on the metal handle and we all watch, horrified, as the shattered glass rises up and back again like bendy plastic. We can’t get the lid off like that so instead I use a pallet knife to gently slide it away as Eldest and Middle One, and Youngest too (who has just arrived to view the spectacle), bellow contradictory instructions. I manage to get the lid off and on to the worktop - but have any tiny bits of glass gone in the food?

Eldest and I run our fingertips across top and bottom: it feels gritty. I stare lovingly, you might even say wistfully, at the dinner... then throw the whole lot out and spend £26 ordering pizza. The boys are delighted, and at least there’s no washing up.

2. Cauliflower cheese

It’s early Sunday evening and I’m making cauliflower cheese to go with the roast. Eldest has requested it. He loves cauliflower cheese. But before I start I have to clean up his pancake mess from earlier. I’ve asked him to do it three times and can’t be bothered to ask again as it will involve climbing three sets stairs to his room where he’s busy ‘doing his homework’.

I’ve forgotten what a faff cauliflower cheese is, there are so many processes. I get on with part 1: steaming. Eldest bounds in. “Where’s the Pritt stick!” he thunders. “There’s never a Pritt stick in this bloody house! I need one for Art.”

“It’s wherever you left it last time I gave it to you,” I say, looking for the flour somewhere in the back of a high cupboard.

“You didn’t give it to me, we had some old ones but they’ve all run out. We never have a decent Pritt stick.”

“No, I bought a new one, a big one, in W H Smith this week. You can’t have used all that already.” I’m well into part 2 now: melting butter…

“I have.”

“I don’t think you have.” Adding flour…

“Where is it, then?”

“It was in the Perspex pencil box on my desk last time I looked.” Some milk and a little grated cheese… “Where I keep it.”

“In the what?”

“The Perspex pencil box.” And now a bit more milk…

“What the hell is a ‘Perspex’ box?”

“Perspex is a type of plastic, you know what it is; it’s see-through.” I’m becoming increasingly frustrated as I stir the sauce. I season it and add more cheese. “I bet it’s still there.” I prod the cauliflower with a knife: it’s done. I take it off the hob and look for a large oven-proof dish to put it in.

“Well I can’t find it, “ he says, “and I really need it for my Art homework.”

“Oh God,’ I sigh, arranging the vegetable in the dish, “Just give me a minute and I’ll come upstairs and look.” I add more milk and turn the sauce down, very low, and stamp up to the office with Eldest behind me attacking the stairs several at a time.

He’s right of course, there is no sign of the Pritt stick in my Perspex pencil box. “Well it was here, ” I say, rooting around. “Someone has had it.”

“Not me,” says Eldest, folding his arms.

“Really?” I tramp up to Eldest’s room. He is hard at my heels, forcefully protesting his innocence. He hasn’t had it, he doesn’t know where it is; someone has obviously taken it... I push things around on his desk - it’s an absolute tip - all the while ranting and moaning and complaining about pancake mess and cauliflower cheese and things never where they should be and then I see it, the Pritt stick, large as life, the one I just bought in W H Smith last week, sitting under his art folder, the art folder he has just been using.

I yelp. I scream. I am so frustrated that I really want to hit him - especially when he says he didn’t put it there - but I mustn’t so I jump up and down and shout, very loudly (it hurts my throat) and he laughs. He actually has the nerve to laugh so that I have to laugh too, just a bit, despite myself.

Then I leave the room to go back to the kitchen, to my burning cheese sauce, and I hear him muttering, “You. Are. So. Mad.”

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